A/N: This was written after an excessively long period of writers block, some being writeen before and most after so if it isn't as good as it should be, that is why.
July 1st 1812
Wellesley sat in his tent waiting. His intelligence report from his exploring officers * on the progress of the Allegiance should have arrived by now. He glanced at the earlier report, which was short and to the point, as well as somewhat illegible, having been scrawled on horseback.
It said: "Allegiance sailing up the Guadiana. Should be within easy flying distance on July 3rd, therefore Temeraire, Iskierka and Leo arriving on July 4th. Ship was delayed by sudden mutiny, which was brought to a satisfactory conclusion by the gallant, meritorious and extremely violent actions of Captain Laurence. Sustained minor long range cannon fire from French gunboats, so put into Oporto for repairs."
Other reports mentioned that Laurence had attacked three mutineers at once and beaten them easily. He certainly seemed to be acting like a textbook hero, mused Wellesley. The only razorblade in the metaphorical candyfloss, was that he was not sure how Laurence would react to his bedding of Jane Roland. In matters of the heart the man was most certainly unpredictable. He had heard the aviators were running a book as to what Laurence would do.
At the moment it was 9/2 that Laurence would challenge the General to a duel. Wellesley sighed and rubbed his eyes. That fence would have to be jumped when he came to it. Meanwhile he had to deal with the usual letters from England demanding to know why the army wasn't apparently doing anything. And then there was the dreaded correspondence from his wife. He put his head in his hands and nearly wept. When he had been young and foolish, he had been certain he had loved his wife.
Now? He wasn't sure if he was honest with himself. He may not love her but he would not subject her to the pain and ignominy of a widely known affair. His sense of honour and decency precluded it. He audibly pulled himself together with a great effort. His staff officers would soon be arriving to discuss strategy and Jane as Admiral of the Air. There were rumours of a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords. While many complained to Wellesley that such an idea was unnatural and highly reprehensible as was the fact of her command of the Aerial Corps, they died in the face of a diamond blue piercing glare.
The protestor's wives gossiped about purported relations between the Commander of the allied forces in the peninsula and his Air Admiral in London society. To paraphrase, the devil makes much work for idle tongues. They were correct, though little did they know it, and greatly did they suspect it deep in their tiny and very well bred minds. Jane's appointment as Admiral of the Air and then as supreme air commander of the allied forces in the peninsula had caused severe controversy in London, though it was partly smoothed over by Wilberforce in parliament, who had become a wholehearted supporter of hers after a meeting to discuss the political side of the combined campaigns for slave emancipation and dragon rights, and among the more older and thus congealed-in-their-ways Spanish commanders, though most had at least grudgingly and sullenly accepted her appointment on the grounds of the exigencies of warfare, particularly after they were reminded subtly of the fact that the female partisans had proved that not only could women fight, they could often do it better than or as well as the men, and the partisans in general had proved to be more effective than the Spanish generals themselves. Wellesley had internally shrugged when he heard this. Frankly he didn't care how or why they rationalised her command, as long as they accepted it and shut up. Jane. She was almost temptation personified when she wished to be, though that was not often. She wasn't classically beautiful, but she had a sort of animal magnetism that made most men turn for a 2nd or 3rd look. She had a curvy figure and wiry muscles like steel. And, he thought with a slightly zoned out smile, she was very flexible.
He struggled out of his happy reverie to when one of his staff officers, Jenkins cleared his throat. Twice.
"The commanders are here to see you sir."
"Send them in then." Inwardly he sighed. He hoped Jane would be willing later or he might have to resort to a habit that he had not had to stoop to since his first sexual experience and was nowhere near as good as the real thing. He composed himself, a zoned out smile and evident signs of sexual tension, were considered not good for putting subordinates at their ease.
The many and varied allied commanders trooped in and settled themselves around the tent.
Wellesley stared around the room, every inch the arrogant and clever General. Now gentlemen, Lady, report. What are the capabilities of your troops? Are there any issues with equipment and supplies or indeed any issues at all? There was a simultaneous shaking of heads, and 'No senor's around the tent. Except for one. Colonel John Featherington, an over promoted young man who had opposed Jane's appointment and resented the fact that a mere woman outranked him. Currently he was turning purple, like some sort of strange toad, albeit a strange toad in excessive amounts of gold brocade and blond handlebar moustaches. Wellesley watched him with a sort of detached interest, wondering what shit-for-brains (Jane's derogatory nickname for him) would do next.
"Sir. Permission to voice once more my views on the presence of Admiral Roland?" He sneered.
"Denied. I have no wish to hear your latest tirade on the place of women, as I was having a good day and I do not wish you to spoil it." Wellesley said briskly as Featherington went red and the assembled commanders chuckled quietly, the Spanish a moment after everyone else as they had to have it translated. Jane sat calmly in her chair, smirking, mostly for Featherington's benefit, as he was seated opposite her. Having spent 4 years working alongside some frankly chauvinistic men, she had learned to moderate her emotions and impulses, especially if the impulse was to strangle which ever little berk had just insulted her or the Aerial Corps.
"I once heard that women hold up half of the sky, colonel, a maxim upon which you should reflect, and try and understand." Wellesley continued in a business-like manner.
"Now gentleman, lady, to business."
*Exploring Officers were British officers who rode in full uniform (so as not to be executed as spies in the event of capture) behind enemy lines to gather information. Their horses tended to be very good and very fast and also well fed to enable a quick getaway. In this case they are merely fetching information from long distances as opposed to actively spying. The fast horses being used to avoid occasional rogue partisans, bandits, long range French patrols etcetera.